Following the publishing of a Straits Times article from an American professor, praising Singapore’s achievements and telling Singaporeans not to complain, ST went further to publish a letter from a member of the public, Michael Lim, supporting the American’s view (‘Forum: Singaporeans have it good in many ways‘, 3 Aug).
Lim said that he has spent two decades away from Singapore, in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and now Thailand. “I can attest to how fortunate and blessed we Singaporeans are in many different ways,” he said.
“I learnt that the poor in the other places I have lived in have it worse than the poor in Singapore, while the rich in these other places also fare better than the rich in Singapore in terms of comfort, influence and access.”
“This inequality has unfortunately shown up during the current pandemic in the differential access to vaccines in some of these places,” he added.
He agreed with the American professor that Singaporeans are indeed a complaining lot.
“But we should complain with humour, humility and reverence for the system that our forefathers built and our current generation upholds,” he said. “And as our nation celebrates its National Day, we surely must have the confidence that we have more blessings to come.”
More seniors having to work
It’s not known what kind of blessings Lim is expecting Singaporeans to have but certainly, with the large number of Singaporeans not having enough money in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) account for retirement, many will have to work till they perish from this world (‘400K Singaporeans between age 55 to 70 don’t have enough in CPF to meet Basic Retirement Sum‘, 23 Mar 2021).
It was reported in March this year that there are currently around 400,000 people aged 55 to 70 who don’t have enough in their CPF to meet the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS), which is intended to provide a lifelong basic monthly income of up to $800. Currently, for CPF members turning age 55 this year, the BRS which is half of the the Minimum Sum is set to $93,000 by the government as of 2021.
Indeed, without sufficient CPF savings, many have to continue to work even in their ripe old age. Just 3 months ago in May, it was reported that a cleaner who was infected with the coronavirus at Changi airport terminal is, in fact, an 88-year-old elderly working at the airport. Many netizens were asking why the elderly is still working especially at such a high-risk location with imported COVID-19 cases flying into Singapore everyday.
One netizen wrote, “This is really heartbreaking. Still working as a cleaner at 88. And yet they still want to happy happy open borders to high risk countries.” Another asked, “Where did we go wrong?”
And even with $800 a month assuming one is able to meet the BRS requirement, it may not be enough to see the person retiring comfortably in Singapore. According to a 2019 study conducted by LKY School of Public Policy and NTU, a single person aged 65 and above would need at least $1,379 a month to sustain a descent basic standard of living in Singapore.
In order to cope with rising living costs, an increasing number of elderly Singaporeans have resorted to making a return to the workforce at an age when many would like to retire comfortably.
It was reported in 2019 where Reuters reported that the employment rate for people over 65 in Singapore have jumped over 15 percent in the past decade.
“Some of them say they have to continue to work in order to survive”.
“Almost a third of Singaporeans over 65 work”, according to Reuters, adding that “the employment rate for the elderly has jumped over 15 percent”.
“Since 2016, the country has launched several schemes to help companies with older staff, such as redesign grants that subsidise pay.
“The government is hoping to help older workers remain in the workforce longer and stay productive members of society,” Reuters added.
Speaking to Reuters, Philip, a 71-year-old security officer at Alliance Française, said that “instead of enjoying retirement”, he works six days a week at the French cultural centre, during which he screens incoming visitors to ensure that no trespassing occurs.
Citing his reasons for working at such an age, Mr Philip said that his reasons “can be summed up in two letters: A and I.”
“A stands for active – being active; I: to be independent,” he beamed.
However, with a “sky high cost of living and one of the highest life expectancies worldwide”, many older workers in Singapore have few choices but to return to the workforce after retirement “because they simply cannot survive otherwise”, Reuters highlighted.
Younger Singaporeans involving in freelance work with no CPF
There have also been worries that many of the younger Singaporeans who are involved in freelance work in the gig economy nowadays, may have difficulties retiring when they get old.
This is because such freelance work does not guarantee a stable income for the long term and would impact their CPF savings. Others, including high-income earners, are worried about pay cuts and retrenchments in future, which would also impact their CPF savings and retirements.
Meanwhile, in Australia, a first world country which the writer Lim presumably did not work in, the retirement of elderly is well taken care of. A typical Australian who is single can get a pension amount of A$952.70 per 2 weeks, or about A$2,064 (S$2,144) per month.
In fact, most of the pension money would likely be spent off by the Australian pensioner, helping to drive its local economy since he or she knows they would be getting the money continuously every 2 weeks.
In Singapore, the government expects the children to fund the retirement of their elderly parents if they don’t have enough to retire. In fact, the Maintenance of Parents Act in Singapore even provides for an elderly aged 60 years old and above who is unable to subsist on his own, to sue his children so as to claim maintenance money from them.